S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Page, Miss Mary Maud (botanical illustration)

Born: 21 September 1867, London, United Kingdom.
Died: 8 February 1925, Cape Town, South Africa.
Active in: SA.

Mary Maud Page, daughter of Nathaniel Page and his wife Emily Rosa Full, spent a year at a finishing school in Paris, France, and then worked at the Caldrons School of Art until her eyesight failed. She then took a course in wood-carving, learnt to work with metals and enamels, became skilled in needlework, embroidery and lace-making, and learnt braille to translate books for a blind friend. She left for South Africa in July 1911, suffering from rheumatism, spent a few months at Dealesville in the Free State where she used its mineral springs, and settled in Bloemfontein early in 1912. From August that year she spent three months in Palapye, Bechuanaland Protectorate (now Botswana), and then visited Pretoria, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Basutoland (now Lesotho). In the latter country she painted landscapes, but later started collecting and painting plants. She also inspired and helped a friend of hers, Mrs Beaumont, to form a teaching herbarium for the school at Morija. She later returned to Lesotho several times.

While in Cape Town in January 1915 Page showed some of her flower paintings to Mrs H M L Bolus*, who encouraged and trained her to illustrate plants with botanical accuracy. She became a botanical artist at the Bolus Herbarium, University of Cape Town, late in 1915 and remained associated with the institution until her death. The herbarium holds more than 200 of her paintings of the genus Mesembryanthemum, 100 plants of the Cape Peninsula, and others of orchids and the family Iridaceae. Some of these were published in the Annals of the Bolus Herbarium, the Journal of the Botanical Society of South Africa, in H M L Bolus's Elementary lessons in systematic botany (1919), A G J Herre's The genera of the Mesembryanthemaceae (1971), and other publications. The genus Pagella was named after her by S. Schonland*.

Despite her chronic illness Page thoroughly enjoyed the outdoors. She had a positive attitude towards life, made friends easily, and was well-loved by everyone she met.

List of sources:

Bolus, H.M.L. In memoriam: Mary M. Page. Annals of the Bolus Herbarium, 1925-1928, Vol. 4, pp. 56-61.

Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 4, 1981.

Gunn, M. & Codd, L.E. Botanical exploration of southern Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1981.

Herre, H. The genera of the mesembryanthemacea. Cape Town: Tafelberg, 1971.

Compiled by: C. Plug

Last updated: 2020-04-23 17:30:14